Game: El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
Genre: Action, Action RPG, Side Scroller
Developers | Publisher: crim Co. Ltd.| PR Hound
Controller Support: Yes, No Mouse & Keyboard
Age Rating: US Teen | EU 12+
Price: US $29.99 | UK £19.99 | EU €19.99
Release Date: September 2nd, 2021
Review code used, with many thanks to PR Hound
Originally a cult classic from the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 era, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron has finally been ported to Steam ten years after its initial release. Cult classics in general have always been interesting to me since I have a love for games that don’t tend to be mainstream. It’s always interesting to see what games resonate with a small group of people and how fiercely loyal those fans can be. And with the director of the game, character designer and artist Sawaki Takeyasu, involved with popular titles such as Devil May Cry, Okami, and Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, the design aspects of this title promise to be very strong indeed. But let’s see exactly what El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron has to offer!
The Scribe and the Fallen Angels
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is loosely inspired by the biblical tales told within the Book of Enoch, the game weaving a tale of a scribe known as Enoch who is tasked with finding and sealing the fallen angels. These seven fallen angels (Baraquel, Arakiel, Sariel, Armaros, Ezekiel, Azazel, Semyaza) have built and taken residence inside of a large ominous tower, with each one residing on a floor of their own. Enoch must succeed at his task, or else a great flood will destroy mankind.
Enoch is a silent protagonist who will valiantly traverse each floor to complete his mission, with a guardian angel known as Lucifel appearing along the way to assure that the world is protected (and he also serves as your manual save point). Along the way, you will also meet a couple of characters who will provide more background to the world of El Shaddai and the people who have been caught in the middle of the conflict between the fallen angels and the higher beings in Heaven.
The other archangels are mentioned sparingly throughout the game, although only Uriel appears in some way as your special move. After certain moments in time, Enoch will start glowing and Uriel will state that he is ready to assist. His assistance can be used to either power up your attack or unleash a powerful special move against nearby enemies.
The main story will clock in at around 10 hours or so if you’re just going through the story normally. There are some journal entries from nameless NPCs that you can collect, mainly to build the world of El Shaddai. And for those looking for a challenge, there is a New Game+ Mode that unlocks new difficulties as well. Any collectables, such as journal entries and Lucifel conversations, can be viewed/listened to from the main menu.
Slashing Enemies and Jumping Platforms
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a mix of action and platforming. You control Enoch as you travel through the different levels of each floor of the tower. The game will switch between 2D and 3D perspectives, both of which will involve platforming. When in 2D, the game is primarily a platformer, with each level design completely different from the last. Your main goal is reaching the end of the level with minimal battling against enemies. Any difficulty that comes from these levels is due to specific moments where you will need to be precise with your jumps.
Most of the meat of the game is when you are in a 3D perspective, as this is where most of the battles will be held. You will unlock three weapons to use as you progress through the game: the Arch, Gale, and Veil and you can only have one weapon equipped at a time.
The Arch is a close-range melee sword-like weapon that is a nice balance between speed and power, the Gale is a long-range firing weapon, albeit much weaker than the other weapons, and the Veil is a slow yet powerful close-range punching weapon. You can gain these weapons by either interacting with an object known as a Fruit of Wisdom or stealing them after you’ve dealt a certain amount of damage to an enemy.
There are no visual gauges to display health during your playthrough, so the only way that you can tell how close you or your enemy is to being defeated is by their armor. As you take or give more damage, pieces of armor will crack off, exposing more of the body. Once all of the armor has been removed, the character is defeated. For the player character, however, you do have a chance to revive yourself. Right as your character takes their last hit, movement will start occurring in slow motion and the screen will start fading to black. Before the entire screen turns black, you can start spamming specific buttons to give you another chance at life, fully healing your character. However, the more times that you revive yourself, the harder it is to revive yourself the next time.
The Complexity of Battle (and the Game)
By default, there is an Easy and Normal difficulty that the player can choose before beginning the game. Harder difficulties are reserved until after a first playthrough has been completed. The normal difficulty has some challenges to it. From some precision needed to make certain jumps to getting the right timing down when it comes to attacking and defending. The number of times that you’ll need precision to land your jumps are minimal in retrospect but appear enough to where it is noticeable and frustrating.
When it comes to combat, you’ll regularly face off against mobs of enemies wielding one of the three weapon types. Enemies aren’t quick to attack you all at once, as they each have their own attack patterns, but it can be overwhelming if all enemies decide to attack at once. You will fight against a maximum of three monsters at one time, with usually a total of six to nine monsters to defeat in each fighting area.
Each floor also has a boss fight, with some floors mixing in mini-bosses as well. Each boss has its own attacks and you’ll need to learn its patterns in order to properly dodge and attack at the right moments. While you can stun-lock normal enemies. It’s a lot harder for bosses if you catch them at the wrong moment, leaving you vulnerable to attacks yourself. As you progress, you will find yourself battling against more bosses in a row, although the game does autosave after each boss is defeated, so you can continue from the beginning of the new boss fight.
Beautiful Scenery at Every Turn
One thing that can be said with confidence with El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is that the level design is fantastic. Each level of the tower is completely different from the last and each one fits the vibe of each of the fallen angels. You’ll see everything from monochromic platforms to watercolor-esque backgrounds. Side by side, they look as though they would all belong in different games. And truly, entering each of these worlds does leave a bit of guessing as to what kind of experience you’ll run into next.
That being said, the models of the characters themselves are a little less impressive. Of course, a thing to keep in mind is the fact that this is a game from 2011. It’s not quite fair to compare graphics from nearly a decade ago to what is considered the baseline nowadays.
There are some funky things happening with textures, but nothing that could be considered unplayable. For the most part, the game runs smoothly. Although there were a couple of moments where it would suddenly freeze during battle (which could be chalked up to my computer).
There is also an art book and soundtrack that you can purchase with the game as well. The artbook has over 90 pages of artwork, ranging from original pieces to concept art. And truthfully speaking, the artbook is amazing. It really shows the game’s strength in its design, from backgrounds to enemies to character art. The music is another strong point, with a wonderful range of orchestral pieces that range from haunting to almost tragic.
The Camera is Your Biggest Enemy
The camera in El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is fixed, which can sometimes come to the detriment of the player. When traversing through levels, the camera tracks the player’s movement pretty well. However, there are some moments where you will find yourself in the middle of a battle and the camera decides that it wants to get in on the action from the worst possible angle. At that point, your only hope is moving around until the camera rights itself, which may or may not work out in time before you inevitably get hit.
This also means that backtracking can be a bit of a pain. While you don’t have a reason to backtrack through any of the levels, for those looking for 100% completion and finding that they missed something along the way, you’ll need to be careful and keep in mind that the camera is only going to pan back as far as your character.
Overall, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is an interesting experience. It’s understandable why this game is considered a cult classic, with the interesting battle system and beautiful designs surrounding the game. The one downside of this game is some aspects of the gameplay. It’s easy to fall into a loop of frustration due to missed jumps and the wrong placement of the camera. If all enemies decide to charge you at the same time, it’s very easy to end up dying before you truly realize it.
I do think that this is a game that will appeal to a small niche of people. But with that though, I would say to at least give this game a chance and check out more information about it. Because if nothing else, it is a memorable experience.
Final Verdict: I Like it.